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SAIS Review 23.2 (2003) 248-250

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Kosovo and International Society, by Alex J. Bellamy. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). 259 pp. $68.

There is no lack of scholarly—and not so scholarly—treatment of the messy dissolution of Yugoslavia. Throughout the 1990s, military, economic, and humanitarian crises there tested shifting Western security arrangements and practices. Yet, the crisis that in hindsight comes to mind first—Kosovo—was for years a secondary concern to policymakers and diplomats.

University of Queensland political scientist Alex J. Bellamy has written a detailed and focused description of international engagement with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) 1 over the matter of Kosovo's legal status and the FRY's treatment of the Kosovar Albanian population. Until the increase in violence in 1998, international actors generally refrained from engaging the FRY over Kosovo, essentially seeing it as an internal problem within Belgrade's purview. Bellamy argues that a Western fear that engagement might cause Slobodan Milosevic to interfere with efforts to implement the Dayton Accords was part of this reluctance. In addition, a flawed analysis of the Yugoslav constitution led observers to conclude that Kosovo could make no legal claim to sovereignty.

In January 1999 Serbian Ministry of the Interior forces massacred Kosovar Albanian civilians in the village of Racak. Media exposure of the tragedy, Bellamy argues, pushed the Contact Group 2 —the ad hoc group of nations coordinating sanctions policy and diplomacy—to move from a period of "unarmed intervention" to one of "coercive diplomacy." With respect to Racak, one of Bellamy's concerns is to dispel charges, aired in Le Monde and [End Page 248] elsewhere, that the massacre was staged to allow NATO a pretext to unleash air strikes on the European continent. Bellamy's assessment of the roots of various conspiratorial analyses is worthwhile. Indeed, throughout the book he does a good job covering the domestic political pressures at work in different NATO member states as well as how NATO worked to maintain alliance cohesion despite being forced to sacrifice some military options—and despite the challenge of competing national chains of command.

Three categories of thought on the crisis in Kosovo eventually persuaded Contact Group nations to take action. First, the "Srebrenica Syndrome," as Bellamy has dubbed it, referred to the fear of being unable to prevent a large-scale massacre like the one that occurred at Srebrenica in 1995. Second, the "Refugees Syndrome," was a fear of a massive influx of refugees into Western Europe. Third, the "Balkan Wars Syndrome," meant a fear that war in the Balkans might spread. All three are evocative of great tumults in the twentieth century European experience. At the same time, all three "syndromes" represented challenges to accepted—and, in some cases, formalized—norms of state conduct. Ultimately, it was the Serbian action of undertaking ethnic cleansing in Kosovo that brought together all three syndromes. NATO acted; in effect, Serbia pulled the trigger on itself.

When NATO went to war in March 1999, it was what Bellamy calls a "post-Clausewitzian" war in that military means dictated the political goals. But this categorization can seem circular; it was political sensitivity—to opposition, concern over the safety of soldiers, demands for bombing pauses, etc.—that often shaped military strategy. For example, the teleconferencing required for target selection suggests a more continuous, two-way interaction of politics and war. Perhaps the Clausewitzian jury is still out on the matter.

Bellamy is careful to counter the perception that Russia, through writ of Pan-Slavic affinities, served as Belgrade's protector. Instead, Russia was motivated by its desire to play a prominent role on the international stage, and it was incorporated by extant elite networks and international institutions. Among other instances, Russian mediator Boris Mayorski's protest at U.S. diplomat Christopher Hill's trip to Belgrade, which occurred as talks at Rambouillet stalled, made clear the primacy of Russian concern for its own diplomatic involvement over a perceived Slavic affinity for Belgrade—which could have benefited from Hill's unilateral mission. [End Page 249]

Even before hostilities in Belgrade had ceased...


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